Question of the Day IV
Is it INTJ or INTP?
Mark & Carol The Editors, October 4, 2011
Sometimes the MBTI code’s judging/perceiving (J/P) dichotomy is extremely difficult to nail down—showing a low preference clarity on the report and proving elusive to verify. INTJ vs. INTP seems especially problematic.
Why is J/P so difficult? Do you have any tips for verification?
Editors’ Note This question came up a couple of times recently; and though we have some thoughts about the issue (see below), we both sometimes still struggle with helping clients crack the J/P dimension of their code. We would love to hear more ideas, theories, and tips from readers.
Sometimes an INTJ may resemble an INTP or vice versa because the individual’s Critical Parent function (6th) has “hijacked” the Good Parent function (2nd or auxiliary), to use Bob McAlpine’s phrase. I have noticed that my own Critical Parent (Witch/Senex) archetype can be very loud, and this may enable it to drown out the auxiliary; at least this is my understanding of John Beebe‘s model (but he has not vetted this statement). I believe this can happen to any personality type when stressed.
When this happens to an INTJ, his auxiliary extraverted thinking (Te) Good Parent might be suppressed by his introverted thinking (Ti) Critical Parent. Then it may look as if he is using both Ni and Ti and so one might think he’s an INTP because the Ti Critical Parent seems so prominent. Ti in any position is a kind of hair-splitting function, defining and refining for ever more precision, and when it falls in the 6th position can express as harsh criticism. In this case, the INTJ can appear exasperatingly nit-picky.
Similarly, for an INTP, if the Critical Parent archetype suppresses her auxiliary Good Parent function (Ne), her Ni (6th) might overpower her Ne (2nd), and she may appear to be using both Ti and Ni. Ni is the ‘knowing’ function, the process that intuits the answer without having data for it, and when it appears in the Critical Parent position, it could make the INTP seem arrogantly obstinate about her position.
How can we help validate a person’s type if this confusion occurs during the feedback process or on the Indicator? One way that I use is to ask the person about early childhood messages from authority. What was he criticized for? What did her parents or teachers lay down the law about? What does he or she criticize self and others for? If the answer is, “I criticize myself for not knowing enough,” or “I criticize others their failure to see the future,” that sounds like introverted intuition in the Critical Parent position, so it’s a clue that INTP maybe be the best fit. If the answer is, “I criticize others for not being precise enough,” or “I criticize others for not finishing their homework, not having fully considered the subject,” that suggests a Ti Critical Parent and therefore an INTJ type code.
This does not mean that we are doomed to use our Critical Parent function (opposite attitude to our auxiliary) in a negative way. In fact, as I understand it, we can try to use our mental processes in a way that, according to Bob McAlpine, “might allow us to manage the emotional charge.” It does appear that we all start out life with a tendency to use the 6th function defensively, and often with a negative charge.
A primary characteristic of the unconscious is that it comes across as a confusing jumble—like different voices singing different songs simultaneously, each indistinguishable from the others. In terms of psychological type, personal growth is a matter of “differentiating” these individual cognitive functions from the ‘background noise’ of the other unconscious ways of thinking and operating, thus bringing them into consciousness as we learn to notice them, ‘hear’ them, respect them, intentionally engage them, and become comfortable with them. Perhaps the most difficult challenge in differentiation is distinguishing a function-attitude from the function in the opposite attitude, because they obviously resemble each other in many ways.
As we develop our basic dominant and auxiliary type toolkit, usually at an early age, we are also developing their opposite-attitude ‘cousins’ to a lesser degree. A mushroom hunter must not only become familiar with the look of the edible mushrooms he uses, but also of the similar-looking toxic ones that he doesn’t, in order to tell them apart. Similarly, we must develop both extraverted thinking (Te) and introverted thinking (Ti), for example, up to the point where we are able to see the difference and determine which one works best for us—our natural preference. So an INTJ with auxiliary Te will also have some ability to engage her Ti sixth function. Most will have a well-developed, well differentiated auxiliary Te. But some INTJs appear to develop both Te and Ti without ever really separating the two. This may lead to a ‘muddy,’ not very effective, concurrent use of the function in both attitudes. This tandem early development of the opposite-attitude cousins or our preferred functions seems a likely source for the problem of J/P confusion. The type professional who is skilled at distinguishing each of the eight cognitive functions from its opposite-attitude counterpart brings a powerful tool to the type verification process.
But beyond that, the ‘ultimate weapon’ for type verification is an understanding of the different kinds of energies that are characteristic of each position in typology’s sequence of function-attitudes. Each of the positions carries a characteristic role and a corresponding ‘energy’ in our lives. Our dominant mental process (called the “Hero” or “Heroine” in John Beebe’s archetypal model) is characterized by an energy of default leadership. It is our go-to first approach to tackling everything that life throws at us and our area of greatest strength and pride (Beebe’s descriptive terms are italicized). The same function in the opposite attitude is fifth in our sequence of preferences, and carries a more negative, rigid and avoidant, push-back sort of energy. It feels like a part of us that believes it could do a better job of running things; an area of opposition and challenge—the “Opposing Personality.”
It is primarily by engaging our auxiliary function-attitude that we take care of others. This is the nurturing, supportive “Good Parent,” in service to the overall personality, an area of fostering and protecting. The same function in the opposite attitude is our sixth function and plays a “Critical Parent” role—hypercritical and limit-setting, it wants to control our creative and playful impulses through intimidation.
When working to verify a possible INTJ or INTP type, acquaint the individual with the characteristics of extraverted intuiting (Ne), introverted intuiting (Ni), extraverted thinking (Te), and introverted thinking (Ti). Then ask them about the emotional context when they engage these functions. Is it heroic and comfortable? –Oppositional? –Supportive? –Critical? It is usually only necessary to get a handle on one of these ‘energy signatures’ in order to tease-out the true type. And with some practice it becomes not only the most effective and reliable approach to verification, but many find it to be the easiest.